There is no hub. There is no center.

Mary Jo Foley knows her stuff, knows identity and knows Microsoft.  She just published a piece called “With Azure Active Directory, Microsoft wants to be the meta ID hub“.  The fact that she picked up on John Shewchuk&#39s piece despite all the glamorous announcements made in the same timeframe testifies to the fact that she understands a lot about the cloud.  On the other hand, I hope she won&#39t mind if I push back on part of her thesis.  But before I do that, let&#39s hear it:

Summary: A soon-to-be-delivered preview of a Windows Azure Active Directory update will include integration with Google and Facebook identity providers.

Microsoft isn’t just reimaginging Windows and reimaginging tablets. It’s also reimaginging Active Directory in the form of the recently (officially) unveiled Windows Azure Active Directory (WAAD).

In a June 19 blog post that largely got lost among the Microsoft Surface shuffle last week, Microsoft Technical Fellow John Shewchuk delivered the promised Part 2 of Microsoft’s overall vision for WAAD.

WAAD is the cloud complement to Microsoft’s Active Directory directory service. Here’s more about Microsoft’s thinking about WAAD, based on the first of Shewchuk’s posts. It already is being used by Office 365, Windows InTune and Windows Azure. Microsoft’s goal is to convince non-Microsoft businesses and product teams to use WAAD, too.

This is how the identity-management world looks today, in the WAAD team’s view:

And this is the ideal and brave new world they want to see, going forward.


WAAD is the center of the universe in this scenario (something with which some of Microsoft’s competitors unsurprisingly have problem).

[Read more of the article here]

The diagrams Mary Jo uses are from John&#39s post.  And the second clearly shows the “Active Directory Service”  triangle in the center of the picture so one can understand why Mary Jo (and others) could think we are talking about Active Directory being at the center of the universe. 

Yet in describing what we are building, John writes,

“Having a shared directory that enables this integration provides many benefits to developers, administrators, and users.”

“Shared” is not the same as “Central”.  For the Windows Azure AD team the “shared directory” is not “THE hub” or “THE center”.  There is no one center any more in our multi-centered world.  We are not building a monolithic, world-wide directory.  We are instead consciously operating a directory service that contains hundreds of thousands of directories that are actually owned by individual enterprises, startups and government organizations.  These directories are each under the control of their data owner, and are completely independent until their data owner decides to share something with someone else.

The difference may sound subtle, but I don&#39t think it is.  When I think of a hub I think of a standalone entity mediating between a set of claims providers and a set of relying parties.  

But with Azure Active Directory the goal is quite different:  to offer a holistic “Identity Management as a Service” for organizations, whether startups, established enterprises or government organizations – in other words to “operate” on behalf of these organizations.  

One of the things such a service can do is to take care of connecting an organization to all the consumer and corporate claims providers that may be of use to it.  We&#39ve actually built that capability, and we&#39ll operate it on a 24/7 basis as something that scales and is robust.  But IdMaaS involves a LOT of other different capabilities as well.  Some organizations will want to use it for authentication, for authorization, for registration, credential management and so on.  The big IdMaaS picture is one of serving the organizations that employ it – quite different from being an independent hub and following a “hub” business model. 

In this era of the cloud, there are many cloud operators.  Martin Kuppinger has pointed out that “the cloud” is too often vendor-speak for “this vendor&#39s cloud”.  In reality there are “clouds” that will each host services that are premium grade and that other services constructed in different clouds will want to consume.  So we will all need the ability to reach accross clouds with complete agility, security and privacy and within a single governance framework.  That&#39s what Identity Management as a Service needs to facilitate, and the Active Directory Service triangle in the diagram above is precisely such a service.  There will be others operated by competitors handling the identity needs of other organizations.  Each of us will need to connect enterprises we serve with those served by our competitors. 

This said, I really accept the point that to express this in a diagram we could (and should)  draw it very differently.  So that&#39s something John and I are going to work on over the next few days.  Then we&#39ll get back to you with a diagram that better expresses our intentions.

 

Disruptive Forces: The Economy and the Cloud

New generations of digital infrastructure get deployed quickly even when they are incompatible with what already exists.  But old infrastructure is incredibly slow to disappear.   The complicated business and legal mechanisms embodied in computer systems are risky and expensive to replace..  But existing systems can&#39t function without the infrastructure that was in place when they were built…  Thus new generations of infrastructure can be easily added, but old and even antique infrastructures survive alongside them to power the applications that have not yet been updated to employ new technologies.

This persistence of infrastructure can be seen as a force likely to slow changes in Identity Management, since it is a key component of digital infrastructure.

Yet global economic and technological trends lead in the opposite direction. The current reality is one of economic contraction where enterprises and governments are under increasing pressure to produce more with less. Analysts and corporate planners don’t see this contraction as being transient or likely to rebound quickly. They see it as a long-term trend in which organizations become leaner, better focused and more fit-to-purpose – competing in an economy where only fit-to-purpose entities survive.

At the same time that these economic imperatives are shaking the enterprise and governments, the introduction of cloud computing enables many of the very efficiencies that are called for.

Cloud computing combines a number of innovations. Some represent new ways of delivering and operating computing and communications power.  But the innovations go far beyond higher density of silicon or new efficiencies in cooling technologies…  The cloud is ushering in a whole new division of labor within information technology.

Accelerating the specialization of functions

The transformational power of the cloud stems above all else from its ability to accelerate the specialization of functions so they are provided by those with the greatest expertise and lowest costs.

I was making this “theoretical” point while addressing the TSCP conference recently, which brings together people from extremely distributed industries such as aeronautics and defense.  Looking out into the audience I was suddenly struck by something that should have been totally obvious to me.  All the industries represented in that room, except for information technology, had an extensive division of labor across a huge number of parties.  Companies like Boeing or Airbus don&#39t manufacture the spokes on the wheels of their planes, so to speak.  They develop specifications and assemble completed products in cost effective ways that are manufactured and refined by a whole ecosystem.  They have massively distributed supply chains.  Yet our model in information technology has remained rather pre-industrial and there are innumerable examples of companies expending their own resources doing things they aren&#39t expert at, rather than employing a supply chain.  And part of the reason is because of the lack of an infrastructure that supports this diversification.  That infrastructure is just arriving now – in the form of the cloud.   

Redistributing processes to be most efficiently performed

So  technologically the cloud is an infrastructure honed for multi-sourcing – refactoring processes and redistributing them to be most efficiently performed.

The need to become leaner and more fit-to-purpose will drive continuous change.  Organizations will attempt to take advantage of the emerging cloud ecology to substitute off-the-shelf commoditized systems offered as specialized services. When this is not possible they will construct their newly emerging systems in the cloud using other specialized ecosystem services as building blocks.

Given the fact that the best building blocks for given purposes may well be hosted on different clouds, developers will expect to be able to reach across clouds to integrate with the services of their choice. Cloud platforms that don’t offer this capability will die from synergy deficiency.

Technological innovation will need to take place before services will be able to work securely in this kind of loosely coupled world – constituting a high-value version of what has been called the “API Economy”. The precept of the API economy is to expose all functionality as simple and easily understood services (e.g. based on REST) – and allow them to be consumed at a high level of granularity on a pay-as-you-go basis.

In the organizational world, most of the data that will flow through these APIs will be private data. For enterprises and governments to participate in the API Economy they will require a system of access control in which many different applications run by different administrations in different clouds are able to reuse knowledge of identity and security policy to adequately protect the data they handle.  They will also need shared governance.

Specifically, it must be possible to reliably identify, authenticate, authorize and audit across a graph of services before reuse of specialized services becomes practicable and economical and the motor of cloud economics begins to hum.

 

Making Good on the Promise of IdMaaS

The second part of John Shewchuk&#39s blog on Windows Azure Active Directory has been published here.  John goes into more detail about a number of things, focusing on the way it allows customers to hook their Cloud AD into the API Economy in a controlled and secure way.  

Rather than describe John&#39s blog myself I&#39m going to parrot the blog post that analyst Craig Burton put up just a few hours ago.  I find it really encouraging to see his excitement:  it&#39s the way I feel too, since I also think this is going to open up so many opportunities for innovation, make developing services simpler and make the services themselves more secure and respectful of privacy.  Here&#39s Craig&#39s post:

As a follow up to Microsoft’s announcement of IdMaaS, the company announced the — to be soon delivered — developer preview for Windows Azure Active Directory (WAzAD). As John Shewchuk puts it:

The developer preview, which will be available soon, builds on capabilities that Windows Azure Active Directory is already providing to customers. These include support for integration with consumer-oriented Internet identity providers such as Google and Facebook, and the ability to support Active Directory in deployments that span the cloud and enterprise through synchronization technology.

Together, the existing and new capabilities mean a developer can easily create applications that offer an experience that is connected with other directory-integrated applications. Users get SSO across third-party and Microsoft applications, and information such as organizational contacts, groups, and roles is shared across the applications. From an administrative perspective, Windows Azure Active Directory provides a foundation to manage the life cycle of identities and policy across applications.

In the Windows Azure Active Directory developer preview, we added a new way for applications to easily connect to the directory through the use of REST/HTTP interfaces.

An authorized application can operate on information in Windows Azure Active Directory through a URL such as:

https://directory.windows.net/contoso.com/Users(‘Ed@Contoso.com’)

Such a URL provides direct access to objects in the directory. For example, an HTTP GET to this URL will provide the following JSON response (abbreviated for readability):

{ “d”: {
“Manager”: { “uri”:”https://directory.windows.net/contoso.com/Users(‘User…’)/Manager” },
“MemberOf”: { “uri”:”https://directory.windows.net/contoso.com/Users(‘User…’)/MemberOf” },
“ObjectId”: “90ef7131-9d01-4177-b5c6-fa2eb873ef19″,
“ObjectReference”: “User_90ef7131-9d01-4177-b5c6-fa2eb873ef19″,
“ObjectType”: “User”,
“AccountEnabled”: true,
“DisplayName”: “Ed Blanton”,
“GivenName”: “Ed”,
“Surname”: “Blanton”,
“UserPrincipalName”: Ed@contoso.com,
“Mail”: Ed@contoso.com,
“JobTitle”: “Vice President”,
“Department”: “Operations”,
“TelephoneNumber”: “4258828080”,
“Mobile”: “2069417891”,
“StreetAddress”: “One Main Street”,
“PhysicalDeliveryOfficeName”: “Building 2″,
“City”: “Redmond”,
“State”: “WA”,
“Country”: “US”,
“PostalCode”: “98007” }
}

Having a shared directory that enables this integration provides many benefits to developers, administrators, and users. If an application integrates with a shared directory just once—for one corporate customer, for example—in most respects no additional work needs to be done to have that integration apply to other organizations that use Windows Azure Active Directory. For an independent software vendor (ISV), this is a big change from the situation where each time a new customer acquires an application a custom integration needs to be done with the customer’s directory. With the addition of Facebook, Google, and the Microsoft account services, that one integration potentially brings a billion or more identities into the mix. The increase in the scope of applicability is profound. (Highlighting is mine – Craig).

Now that’s What I’m Talking About

There is still a lot to consider in what an IdMaaS system should actually do, but my position is that just the little bit of code reference shown here is a huge leap for usability and simplicity for all of us. I am very encouraged. This would be a major indicator that Microsoft is on the right leadership track to not only providing a specification for an industry design for IdMaaS, but also is on well on its way to delivering a product that will show us all how this is supposed to work.

Bravo!

The article goes on to make commitments on support for OAuth, Open ID Connect, and SAML/P. No mention of JSON Path support but I will get back to you about that. My guess is that if Microsoft is supporting JSON, JSON Path is also going to be supported. Otherwise it just wouldn’t make sense.

JSON and JSON Path

The API Economy is being fueled by the huge trend of accessibility of organization’s core competence through APIs. Almost all of the API development occurring in this trend are based of a RESTful API design with data being encoded in JSON (JavaScript Object Notation). While JSON is not a new specification by any means, it is only in the last 5 years that JSON has emerged as the preferred — in lieu of XML — data format. We see this trend only becoming stronger.

[Craig presents a table comparing XPath to XML – look at it here.]

Summary

As an industry, we are completely underwater in getting our arms around a workable — distributed and multi-centered identity management metasystem — that can even come close to addressing the issues that are already upon us. This includes the Consumerization of IT and its subsequent Identity explosion. Let alone the rise of the API Economy. No other vendor has come close to articulating a vision that can get us out of the predicament we are already in. There is no turning back.

Because of the lack leadership (the crew that killed off Information Cards) in the past at Microsoft about its future in Identity Management, I had completely written Microsoft off as being relevant. I would have never expected Microsoft to gain its footing, do an about face, and head in the right direction. Clearly the new leadership has a vision that is ambitious and in alignment with what is needed. Shifting with this much spot on thinking in the time frame we are talking about (a little over 18 months) is tantamount to turning an aircraft carrier 180 degrees in a swimming pool.

I am stunned, pleased and can’t wait to see what happens next.
 

I think it goes without saying that “turning an aircraft carrier 180 degrees in a swimming pool” is a fractal mixed metaphor of colossal and recursive proportions that boggles the mind – yet there is more than a little truth to it.  In fact that&#39s really one of the things the cloud demands of us all.

Craig&#39s question about JSON Path is a good one.  The answer is that JSON Path is essentially a way of navigating and extracting information from a JSON document.  WAzAD&#39s Graph API returns JSON documents and if they are complex documents we expect programmers will use JSON Path – which they already know – to extract specific information.  It will be part of their local programming environment on whatever device or platform they are issuing a query from.

On the other hand, one can imagine supporting JSON Path queries in the RESTful interface itself.  Suppose you have a JSON document with many links to other JSON documents.  Do you then support “chaining” on the server so it follows the links for you and returns the distributed JSON Path result?  The problem with this approach is that a programming model we want to be ultra-simple and transparent for the programmer turns into something opaque that can have many side effects, become unpredictable and exhibit performance issues.  As far as I know, the social network APIs that are most sophisticated in their use of links don&#39t support this.  They just get the programmer to chase the links that are of interest.

So for these reasons server support is something we have talked about but don&#39t yet have a position on.  This is exactly the kind of thing we&#39d like to explore by collaborating with developers and getting their input.  I&#39d also like to hear what other people have experienced in this regard.

 

Viviane Reding&#39s Speech to the Digital Enlightenment Forum

It was a remarkable day at the annual conference of the Digital Enlightenment Forum  in Luxembourg.  The Forum is an organization that has been set up over the last year to animate a dialog about how we evolve a technology that embodies our human values.  It describes its vision this way: 

The DIGITAL ENLIGHTENMENT FORUM aims to shed light on today’s rapid technological changes and their impact on society and its governance. The FORUM stimulates debate and provides guidance. By doing so, it takes reference from the Enlightenment period as well as from transformations and evolutions that have taken place since. It examines digital technologies and their application openly with essential societal values in mind. Such values might need to be given novel forms taking advantage of both today’s knowledge and unprecedented access to information.

For the FORUM, Europe’s Age of Enlightenment in the 18th century serves as a metaphor for our current times. The Enlightenment took hold after a scientific and technological revolution that included the invention of book printing, which generated a novel information and communication infrastructure. The elite cultural Enlightenment movement sought to mobilise the power of reason, in order to reform society and advance knowledge. It promoted science and intellectual interchange and opposed superstition, intolerance and abuses by the church and state. (more)

 The conference was intended to address four main themes:

  • What can be an effective organisation of governance of ICT infrastructure, including clouds? What is the role of private companies in relation to the political governance in the control and management of infrastructure? How will citizens be empowered in the handling of their personal data and hence in the management of their public and private lives?
  • How do we see the relation between technology and jurisdiction? Can we envisage a techno-legal ecosystem that ensures compliance with law (’coded law’), and how can sufficient political control be ensured in a democratic society?
  • What are the consequences for privacy, freedom and creativity of the massive data collection on behaviour, location, etc. by private and public organisations and their use through mining and inferencing for profiling and targeted advertising?
  • What needs to be done to ensure open discussion and proper political decision-making to find an appropriate balance between convenience of technology use and social acceptability?
  • The day was packed with discussions that went beyond the usual easy over-simplifications.  I won&#39t try to describe it here but will post the link to the webcast when it becomes available.

    One of the highlights was a speech by Mme Viviane Reding, the Vice President of the European Union (who also serves as commissioner responsible for Justice, Fundamental Rights and Citizenship) about her new proposed Data Protection legislation.   Speaking later to the press she emphasized that the principle of private data belonging to the individual has applied in the European Union since 1995, and that her new proposals are simply a continuation along three lines.  First, she wants users to understand their rights and get them enforced;  second she is trying to provide clarity for companies and reduce uncertainty about how the data protection laws will be applied;  and third, she wants to make everyone understand that there will be sanctions.  She said,

    “If you don&#39t have sanctions, who cares about the rules?  Who cares about the law?”

    And the sanctions are major:  2% of world-wide turnover of the company.  Further they apply to all companies, anywhere in the world, that collect information from Europeans.

    I very much recommend that everyone involved with identity and data protection read her speech, “Outdoing Huxley: Forging a high level of data protection for Europe in the brave new digital world”.

    In my view, the sanctions Mme Reding proposes will, from the point of view of computer science, be meted out as corrections for breaking the Laws of Identity.  John Fontana asked me about this very dynamic in an article he did recently on the relevance of the Laws of Identity seven years after they were written (2005).

    ZDNet: The Laws of Identity predicted that government intervention in identity and privacy would increase, why is that happening now?

    Cameron: There are many entities that routinely break various of these identity laws; they use universal identifiers, they collect information and use it for different purposes than were intended, they give it to parties that don’t have rights to it, they do it without user control and consent. You can say that makes the Laws irrelevant. But what I predicted is that if you break those Laws there will be counter forces to correct for that. And I believe when we look at recent developments – government and policy initiatives that go in the direction of regulation – that is what is happening. Those developments are providing the counter force necessary to bring behavior in accordance with the laws. The amount of regulation will depend on how quickly entities (Google, Facebook, etc.) respond to the pressure.

    ZDNet: Do we need regulation?

    Cameron: It’s not that I am calling for regulation. I am saying it is something people bring upon themselves really. And they bring it on themselves when they break the Laws of Identity.

     

    Identity Management before the Cloud (Part 2)

    The First Generation Identity Ecosystem Model

    The biggest problem of the “domain based model of identity management” was that it assumed each domain was an independent entity whose administrators had complete control over the things that were within it – be they machines, applications or people.

    During the computational Iron Age – the earliest days of computing – this assumption worked.

    But even before the emergence of the Internet we began to see domains colliding within closed organizational boundaries – as discussed here.  The idea of organizations having an “administrative authority” revealed itself to be far more complicated than anyone initially thought, since enterprises were evolving into multi-centered things with autonomous business units experiencing bottoms-up innovation. The old-fashioned bureaucratic models, probably always somewhat fictional, slowly crumbled.

    Many of us who worked on IT architecture were therefore already looking for ways to transcend the domain model even before the Internet began to flood the enterprise and wear away its firewalls. Yet the Internet profoundly shook up our thinking. On the one hand organizations began to understand that it was now possible – and in fact mandatory – to interact with people as individuals and citizens and consumers. And on the other any organization that rolled up its sleeves and got to work on this soon saw that it needed a model where it could “plug in” to systems run by partners and suppliers in seamless and flexible ways.

    With increasing experience enterprise and Internet architects concluded that standardization of identity architecture and components was the only way to achieve the flexibility essential for business agility, whether inside or outside the firewall. It simply wasn’t viable to recode or “change out” systems every time organizations were realigned or restructured.

    Technologists introduced new protocols like SAML that implemented a clear separation of standardized identity provider (IdP) and relying party (RP) roles so components would no longer be hard-wired together. In this model, when users want a service the service provider sends them to an IdP which authenticates them and then returns identifying information to the service provider (an RP within the model).  All the CRUD is performed by the IdP which issues credentials that can be understood and trusted by RPs.  It is a formal division of labor – even in scenarios where the same “Administrative Domain” runs both the IdP and the RP.

    The increasing need for inter-corporate communications, data-sharing and transactions led these credentials to become increasingly claims-based, which is to say the hard dependencies on internal identifiers and proprietary sauce that only made sense inside one party’s firewall gave way to statements that could be understood by unrelated systems. This provided the possibility of making assertions about users that could be understood in spite of crossing enterprise boundaries. It also allowed strategists to contemplate outsourcing identity roles that are not core to a company’s business (for example, the maintenance of login and password systems for retirees or consumers).

    Many of the largest companies have successfully set up relations with their most important partners based on this model. Others have wisely used it to restructure their internal systems to increase their flexibility in the future. The model has represented a HUGE step forward and a number of excellent interoperable products from a variety of technology companies are being deployed. 

    Yet in practice, most organizations have found federation hard to do. New technology and ways of doing things had to be mastered, and there was uncertainty about liability issues and legal implications.  These difficulties grow geometrically for organizations that want to establish relationships with a large number of other other organizaitons.  Establishing configuration and achieving secure connectivity is hard enough, but keeping the resultant matrix of connections reliable in an operational sense can be daunting and therefore seen as a real source of risk. 

    When it came to using the model for internet facing consumer registration, service providers observed that individual consumers use many different services and have accounts (or don’t have accounts) with many different web entities. Most concluded that it would be a gamble to switch from registering and managing “their own users” to figuring out how to successfully reuse peoples’ diverse existing identities. Would they confuse their users and lose their customers? Could identity providers be trusted as reliable? Was there a danger of losing their customer base? Few wanted to find out…

    As a result, while standardized architecture makes identity management systems much more pluggable and flexible, the emergence of an ecosystem of parties dedicated to specialized roles has been slow. The one notable entity that has gained some momentum is Facebook, although it has not so much replaced internet-facing registration systems as supplemented them with additional information (claims). 

    [Next in this series: Disruptive Forces: The Economy and the Cloud]

    Governance is key

    I want to return to Nishant&#39s concerns with the way I&#39ve presented IdMaaS:

    What I was surprised to find missing from Kim’s and Craig’s discussion about IdMaaS were the governance controls one needs in identity management (and therefore IdMaaS) – like approval workflows, access request and access recertification. In other words, those crucial business tools in identity management that have led many analysts and vendors (including me) to repeat on stage many, many times that “Identity Management is about process, not technology”. And this is the part that makes identity management, and therefore IdMaaS, really hard, as I alluded to in my talk about ‘Access Provisioning in a Services World‘ at Catalyst a couple of years ago.

    Let me begin by saying I agree completely with Nishant about the importance of governance.  In fact, in my first blog about IdMaaS I highlighted two fundamental aspects of IdMaaS and digital identity being:

    • confidential auditing; and
    • assurance of compliance.

    I also agree with him on the urgent requirement for “approval workflows, access request and access recertification.”  I believe we need identity and access process control.

    I&#39m therefore surprised about the confusion on whether or not I think governance is important, but I&#39m glad to get this cleared up right at the beginning.

    Let me explain what I had in mind as a way to achieve some depth in this discussion.  It seemed to me we need to decompose the overall service capabilities, rather than trying to discuss “everything simultaneously”.  I started by trying to talk about the IdM models that have led us to the current point in time, in order to set the stage for the exploration of the new emerging model of  Identity Management as a Service and its capabilities, as illustrated in this graphic: 

    Composable capabilities of IdMaaS

    Now my point here is not to argue that this  graphic captures all the needed IdMaaS capabilities – it&#39s very much a work in progress.  It is simply that, when you look at the whole landscape, you see there are a number of areas that warrant real discussion in depth…  My conclusion was that we will only succeed at this by looking at things one at a time.

    The point can be made, and perhaps this is what Nishant was saying, that governance applies to everything.  I accept that this is true, but governance still can be factored out for purposes of discussion.  I think we&#39ll achieve more clarity if that&#39s what we do.  For one thing, it means we can dive more deeply into governance itself.

    Let me know if this decompositional approach seems wrong-headed and we should just have a free-for-all where we discuss everything as it relates to everything else.  I agree that this can be interesting too.

    That said, I want to take up some of the points Nishant makes when talking about governance in the Domain Identity Model.

    In…  ‘Identity management before the cloud (part one)‘, Kim says “In the domain paradigm identity management was thought to be the CRUD and little more.”. But that is not true. What made identity management so hard and expensive was the need to supplement the CRUD features with a governance layer that included policy and process to manage over the entirety of the identity management infrastructure. The responsibility for this was early on thrust upon the provisioning products like Thor Xellerate and Waveset, and later on spawned more specialized handling in IAG products like Sailpoint and Aveksa. Kim alludes to these when he says “A category of Identity Management integration products arose … often brittle point products and tools that could only be deployed at high cost by skilled specialists”. That’s accurate, but not because they were pointless or overhead or overkill. These products were difficult to deploy and needed customization because it wasn’t well understood how to introduce the controls needed in IAM in a manner that was practical and usable. And it was always assumed that every customer would demand unique business processes, so the approach was a toolkit approach rather than a solution approach.

    Reading this, I hold even more strongly than before to the statement that the Domain Model was about CRUD and absolute control by The Domain.   The fact that businesses required governance is historically true but doesn&#39t change the way Domains were conceptualized, built and sold by everyone in the industry.  So I agree with Nishant about the importance of governance but don&#39t think this changes the essence of what domains actually were.

    For a at least several decades computer governance was provided as an outcome of security analysts configuring domain based systems to implement a variety of well-known techniques (physical security, separation of duties, multiple approvers and the like) in order to satisfy business objectives and comply with normative standards prevalent in the industries and national or geographical jurisdictions. 

    I&#39m sure many of us witnessed the calisthenics of colleagues in banks and financial institutions, who, as security officers, figured out how to use mainframes and LANS in both their nascent and more evolved forms to be effective at this.  I know I used to marvel at some of what they accomplished. 

    We are talking about a time when governance wasn&#39t synonymous with government regulation. Governance was more or less orthogonal to the way products were built by the industry.  Domain products could be used in ways that accorded with asset protection requirements if the right expertise was present to set the systems up to achieve these ends.  And on a pessimistic note, has so much really changed in this regard since then?

    Many of the provisioning concepts that appeared in products like Waveset and Xellerate appeared earlier in products like ZOOMIT VIA and Metamerge.  But those, like Waveset, Xellerate and Aveksa were actually, in my view,  “post-domain” products that attempted a holistic solution working across product boundaries.  

    Still, while being post-domain in some ways (e.g. meta),  they continued to require extensive manual intervention by security experts to coax “compliant” behaviors out of them, and this intervention was embodied in detailed configurations and scripts dependent on the behaviors of underlying products.  This meant they were often fragile:  if the underlying products were upgraded, for example, they might no longer be compatible with the framework intended to manage them. 

    Nishant goes on to say,

    And an IdMaaS architecture as alluded to by Kim and illustrated by Craig in this diagram just makes the solving of this problem more difficult and even more critical due to the zero trust environment. Since the identities have not been created and are not controlled by the organization that needs to make the access decisions, approval and review controls become even more important because they’re all the enterprise has. The ability to de-provision access based on events or manual intervention becomes a crucial component of access lifecycle management. These are the safety measures the organization needs to put in place for security and compliance.

    I agree the ability to de-provision is key and in fact it is key to what we will be delivering.  On the other hand, Nishant&#39s conclusion that “the [IdMaaS] architecture.. must make the solving of this problem more difficult… due to the zero trust environment” is I think absolutely unfounded.  As I will show when we go through the requirements for IdMaaS, Trust Frameworks are a necessity, and I know of few Trust Frameworks that are based on “zero trust”. 

    There is a bit too much flailing at paper tigers for me to take all of this apart in a single post.  Let&#39s take a deep breath and delve systematically both into requirements and the details of what is being proposed in WAzAD.

     

    Freedom of choice != Your choice of captor

    I am happy to see that Nishant Kaushik (@NishantK)  has responded to the posts I&#39ve been doing on IdMaaS.  Nishant has strong ideas, having led product architecture and strategy within the Identity Management & Security Products group at Oracle for many years.  Nowadays he is with a startup called Identropy and writes the blog TalkingIdentity.

    Nishant&#39s main concern in his first post was that I&#39ve gone as far as I have without discussing the importance of governance controls.  I&#39m going to save this issue for my next piece, since Nishant also ended up in a spirited conversation with Craig Burton that is really worth following.  He wrote:

    Craig Burton thinks that this vision, and the associated work Microsoft is doing on Windows Azure Active Directory (as described in this post by John Shewchuck) is “profoundly innovative”. I’ll be honest, I’m having a little trouble seeing what is so innovative about WAAD itself. How is the fact that becoming an Office 365 customer automatically gives you an AD in the cloud that you can build/attach other Azure applications to that different from Oracle saying that deploying a Fusion Application will include an OUD based identity store that the enterprise can also use for other applications? Apart from being in the cloud and therefore far easier to use in federated identity (SAML, OpenID, OAuth) scenarios. But I’ll wait to hear more before commenting any further (though John Fontana and others have already weighed in).

    Craig Burton, as is his trademark, includes a few lightning bolts in his response:

    Nishant must not have read my post very carefully. In my explanation of why Microsoft’s vision for IDMaaS is so profound, he failed to notice that I never once mentioned WAAD (Windows Azure Active Directory) or Office 365. There is a reason for that. I am not applauding Microsoft’s — or any other vendor’s — implementation of IDMaaS.

    What is so profound about this announcement is that Microsoft is following Kim Cameron’s directives for building a Common Identity Framework for the planet, not just for a vendor.

    In 2009 Kim Cameron, Reinhard Posch and Kai Rannenberg wrote Proposal for a Common Identity Framework: A User-Centric Identity Metasystem.

    In section 5.4 of that document, the authors spell out the requirement for customer Freedom of Choice.

    Freedom of Choice

    Freedom of choice for both users and relying parties refers to choice of service operators they may wish to use as well as to the interoperability of the respective systems.

    This definition is quite different than the freedom of choice Mr. Kaushik writes about in his blog piece. I posit that the Microsoft vision is so profound because it is built on a definition of Freedom of Choice that fits the above description and not where the customer is free to choose a particular captor.

    And so I state again:

    Freedom of Choice != Your Choice of Captor

    Microsoft’s vision has changed the playing field. Any vendor building IdMaaS that is not meeting the Freedom of Choice requirements defined here is no longer in the game. That is profoundly innovative because this is truly a vision that benefits everyone — but mostly the customer.

    With these remarks Craig starts really getting to the bare bones of what it takes to be trusted  to manage identity for enterprises and governments. 

    It didn&#39t take long before Nishant fired off a second dispatch accepting Craig&#39s  points and clarifing what he saw as the real issues:

    I want to be clear: I am not questioning the vision that Kim Cameron has started to talk about in his posts about IDMaaS (though I was bringing up a part – the governance controls – that I felt was missing and that I believe has a major impact on the architecture of a Common Identity Framework, as Craig called it). And I am completely in agreement with what Craig described in his original post in the section “Stop Gushing and Lay it Out for Me”.

    Craig talks about how Freedom of Choice necessarily includes Freedom from Captor. He then says “This definition is quite different than the freedom of choice Mr. Kaushik writes about in his blog piece“.  I’m not sure why he thinks that, because what I am saying is exactly in line with what Craig and Kim are saying. It is what I have been saying since back in 2006 when I first started talking about the Identity Services Platform, which talks about the framework through which identity-enabled applications (essentially any application) consume identity from standardized services that can plug into any identity system or metasystem.

    What I was pointing out was that John Shewchuck’s post about WAAD seemed to indicate a lack of Freedom of Choice in what Microsoft is rolling out, at least right now. Becoming an Office 365 customer would “automatically create a new Windows Azure Active Directory that is associated with the Office 365 account“, forcing you to store and manage your identities in WAAD.  It should simply ask for the domain from which users could use this, and you could simply point to the Google Apps domain of your company, sign up for WAAD if needed, or grant access to contractors/partners using whatever identity they choose (traditional AD environment, Facebook or Twitter accounts, even personal OpenIDs). By the way, the governance controls I was talking about are essential here in order to define the process of granting, managing and taking away access in this deployment model.

    When I said “I’m having a little trouble seeing what is so innovative about WAAD itself”, I was pointing out my opinion that the details in John’s post did not seem to match up with the vision being outlined in Kim’s post, representing the kind of disconnect that Craig himself called out as a risk at various times in his post, but most notably in the section titled Caveats. I guess I’m not quite ready to make the leap that Microsoft’s work will line up Kim’s vision, and was calling out the disconnect I was seeing. And when Craig said “Microsoft is not only doing something innovative – but profoundly innovative”, I assumed he was talking about WAAD and related work, and not just referring to what Kim is talking about.

    Nishant goes on to give more examples of how he thinks Office 365 could be implemented.  I won&#39t discuss those at this point since I think we should save our implementation discussions for later.  First we need a more thorough conversation about what IdMaaS actually involves given all the changes that are impacting us.  It is these definitions that must lead to implementation considerations.  I hope Nishant will bear with me on this so we can continue the discussion begun so far.

    I also want, in deference to Nishant and others who may have similar concerns, make a few remarks on what we have rolled out right now.  I want to be really clear that while I think we already do a number of things really well and in a robust way at very high scale, there are all kinds of things we still don&#39t do that form an integral part of our vision for what must be done.  Anyone who says they can do all that is needed just doesn&#39t, in my view, have a vision.

    On the other hand, I hope we can steer clear of overly simplified recipies for what complicated offerings like Office 365 require as identity management.  For example, applications like Office need directories and places to store information about people in them, and nowhere is it written in stone that this should be done by sending realtime queries to dozens or thousands of systems.   Enterprise users want directory lookup that is as fast and reliable when served from the cloud as it is on premises.  And so on.  My point here is not to argue for one solution versus another, but to invite Nishant and others who may be interested to zero in on the broad set of requirements before getting overly committed to possible ways of meeting them.

          

    Craig Burton on Microsoft&#39s Identity Management as a Service

    Craig Burton first achieved prominence as the Senior Vice President of Corporate Marketing and Development who drove Novell&#39s innovation and market strategies in the days when it was aggressively turning computing upside down. Some years later he founded the Burton Group with Jamie Lewis.  Today he is a Distinguished Analyst for Kuppinger Cole, where he just published an intriguing response to the blogs John and I have been doing:  Microsoft is Finally Being Relevant.

    For now I&#39ll refrain from comment and just offer up the goods:

    Microsoft is Finally Being Relevant
    Surprise surprise. For the last few years it looked as if the battling business units and power struggles within Microsoft had all but rendered the company incapable of doing anything innovative or relevant. But clearly something has happened to change this lack of leadership and apparent stumbling in the dark. Microsoft is not only doing something innovative — but profoundly innovative.

    In a dual post by Microsoft’s John Shewchuk and Kim Cameron, the announcement was made about what Kim Cameron alluded to at the KuppingerCole EIC in April — Identity Management as a Service (IDMaaS). This is not trivial, and does not suck. It ROCKS.
    Why is Identity Management as a Service a Big Deal
    From a technical perspective, the place where innovation really makes a difference is the place where the rubber meets the road — infrastructure. Infrastructure is not only fundamental—as it provides the technical framework and underpinning to support big change — but infrastructure is hard.

    It’s also hard to get funded and hard to sell both outside and inside of companies that make infrastructure.

    This is because there is little possibility of showing a direct ROI in core infrastructure investment. It takes vision and guts to invest in infrastructure.

    Nobody wants to buy identity infrastructure. In fact no one should have to pay for identity infrastructure. It should be ubiquitous, work, and be free to everyone and controlled by no one. Infrastructure at this level is as fundamental as air. You don’t think about it, you don’t buy it; you just breathe it in and out and get on with the details.

    Metaphorically, when it comes to the maturity of identity infrastructure today—we are all sucking on thin air from teeny tubes of infrastructure veneer connected to identity silos (Facebook Connect, Twitter, Federated Identity and so on.)

    It’s much like the other core suite of protocols of the Internet — like TCP/IP. TCP/IP is free as far as a piece of software goes. No one ever pays for the transport anymore.

    So should be the protocols and infrastructure for doing Identity Management.  With this announcement Microsoft is showing that it understands Identity Infrastructure is fundamental to everything in the hybrid world of social-mobile-cloud networking that we are stumbling towards.

    Further, Microsoft is making it clear it understands that the current identity provider-centric world we live in now is broken and simply will not work for the future. Significant movement forward from this wretched state requires massive change — which is what Microsoft is proposing.

    From a political and business perspective, Kim Cameron’s vision of a ubiquitous Identity Metasystem has somehow prevailed inside Microsoft and is starting to emerge. This is a big deal. Finally a company with lots of talent that has been wallowing from lack of leadership has stepped up and put a stake in the ground about Identity. Bravo!

    Everybody else of significance that could be doing something significant with identity infrastructure — Google, Facebook, and Amazon for starters — are trapped in their current business models of trafficking your identity for short term profit. For each of them, the little piece they hold captive of your identity is the product by which they are making money. This is both short sighted and unsustainable.

    Microsoft’s plan is much grander. Invest in the hard stuff, solve the really tough identity infrastructure problems across the board—simple, private, and scalable. By taking this high road, Microsoft is betting it can take the leadership role by increasing the size of the pie for other SaaS services and apps that organizations and individuals want and are willing to pay for. Much more visionary that continuing to fight over whatever crumb you can get based on the current broken model.

    If Microsoft is allowed to pull this off, it is a good thing.
    Stop Gushing and Lay it Out for Me
    To understand the significance of IDMaaS, it’s useful to take a quick look at how identity management systems have evolved.

    Figure 1 shows how identities started out being managed within the boundaries of a domain. Domain-based identity managed need hardly be mentioned here as it can’t possibly meet any of the requirements for identity management in today’s organizational environments. For its day, it worked and it was a good place to start.

    Figure 1: Domain Contained Identity

    Figure 2 illustrates the first generation of federated identity management systems. This is a powerful model and was a big step forward from the domain model. In this model there is a service provider that accepts claims from an identity provider. A person can then prove who they are to the identity provider and present claims to the service provider to assure proper access to services and resources. This model works when these a relatively small number of parties involved. But as soon as there a diverse number of parties, it quickly breaks down.

    Figure 2: Identity Federation Model

    Figure 3 shows the scenario with diverse people with diverse relationships with different IPs. When you add diverse and numerous types of devices — cell phones, tablets, laptops and so on — it even makes the case stronger as to why the current federated identity model is reaching its limits.

     

    Figure 3: Diverse People and Devices

    So if the Federated Identity model doesn’t work, what will? Figure 4 shows one school of thought were a single IP can somehow grow big enough and inclusive enough, it can manage all of the identity claims of all entities. This architecture is both frightening and poorly thought out. People and organizations need to have the freedom of choice of how their identities are managed and not be locked into an identity management silo of a single provider.

    Figure 4: Omni Identity Provider

    Figure 5 is another — simpler — graphic showing how a single organization could have federated relationships with multiple constituents. Again, this approach works to a point, but as soon as you consider the impact of the identity explosion brought on by — cloud computing, social computing, mobile computing, and the API economy — this approach simply won’t do the job.

    Figure 5: Organization Federated to Many Constituents

    Figure 6 then, shows the simplified notion of the IDMaaS architecture. Any number of organizations, constituents or entities can generate and consume claims through the service in the cloud.

    Figure 6: Any Entity and Any Number of Entities

    Of course Figure 6 doesn’t very effectively illustrate what the three black dots really mean. With the identity explosion we are talking about, the number of entities that are inevitable are several orders of magnitude bigger than anything we have even thought about up to this point.

    We are in new territory, it is very unclear what is going to happen as a result all of this.

    The fact that Microsoft seems to be acknowledging this fact and is working with vision to address the matter is highly encouraging.

    We are not seeing this kind of vision — or anything close to it — from any other major vendor to date.
    Caveats
    The biggest problem I see here is Microsoft itself. It isn’t like Microsoft has the reputation of always taking the high road to enhance technology to the benefit of all. To the contrary, Microsoft has the reputation of pretending to take the high road with an “embrace and extend-like” position while executing an exacting and calculating “embrace and execute” practice. Microsoft has become the arrogant elephant to dance with that IBM once was. Microsoft’s past is going to be difficult to shed and it will be a significant effort to convince others that the elephant won’t trample on everyone when it gets the chance.

    Figure 7: The New Microsoft?

    (Source: Craig Burton, drawn on the iPhone with Autodesk SketchBook Pro)

    So the tough questions are:

    • Can Microsoft really execute on such a brave direction?
    • Will Microsoft follow up on allowing true “Freedom of Choice” for the customer? (Think interoperability. i.e. IDMaaS from any vendor, not just MSFT)
    • Will the RESTful implementation be usable?
    • Can the technology transcend the limitations of Kerberos and LDAP as it moves Active Directory to the cloud?

     

    Summary
    My explanation is a simplified one, but if you study it a bit, you will start to see where Microsoft is going.

    In short, the vision of an Identity Metasystem based on Identity Management as a Service is brilliant thinking.

    The proof will be found in how Microsoft executes.

    There is a lot to work out here to show if this can really work. But I believe it can happen. Microsoft is in a good position to garner the expertise to give us this first implementation so organizations and people can start to vet the idea and see if this can really fly.

    I will be anxious to watch carefully at the progress of this direction.

    I don&#39t mind taking a few knocks from Craig, and don&#39t think this would be the place to respond to them, even if I do think that the interoperable claims based identity technology we have been building and shipping for the last few years is the rocket fuel needed to “transcend the limitations of Kerberos and LDAP as we move Active Directory to the cloud” – one of his main concerns.

    But why quibble?  Craig really gets what&#39s important.  I like the fact that he takes the time to explain why Identity Management as a Service really is a big deal.  I suspect part of what he is saying is that it dwarfs the incremental changes we have seen over the last few years because it will impact every mainstream technology.

    Craig&#39s points about why infrastructure is hard are all golden, as is his wonderfully simple statement that “the current identity provider-centric world we live in now is broken and simply will not work for the future.”

    As for the tough questions, execution can only be judged by looking at what is shipped and how it evolves over time.  I&#39d like to take up the more general, IdMaaS-related questions in upcoming posts.  John will be talking in his posts specifically about our RESTful implementation and providing readers with access so they can judge for themselves and give us feedback.  At a practical level, we will be making things available incrementally in cloud time, adding breadth and depth as we go on.  This whole aspect of cloud innovation makes it hugely exciting.

    By the way, I love Craig&#39s elephant – I only wish I could dance so well, metaphorically at least.  I also love his graphics: he improved and extended the amateur ones I used in my European Identity and Cloud Conference keynote.  So if it&#39s OK with him, I&#39m going to pitch my own and go with his in my upcoming posts.  Thanks Craig.

     

    Identity management before the cloud (part one)

    Since identity is a fundamental requirement of computing infrastructure, organizations have been involved in digital identity management for decades.  Over the years, three models have emerged and co-existed.  Of course I&#39m tempted to skip the history and jump headfirst into what&#39s new and fresh today.  But I think it is important to begin by reviewing the earlier models so we can get crisp about how the IdMaaS model differs from what has gone before. (Some day people who want to skip the previous models will be able to click here.)

    Firewall Era Identity Model

    Domain boundariesEnterprise identity technology evolved incrementally from mainframe days using the concept of administrative and security “domains”: collections of resources tightly integrated under a single, closed organizational administration.

    To control access to networks, computers, applications and information stores, it was necessary to identify them and recognize their legitimate users – whether people or software services. This required registration systems – often called directories – through which human and non-human identity records could be created, retrieved, updated and deleted (CRUD). In the domain paradigm identity management was thought to be the CRUD and little more.

    While closed administrative domains were simple in theory, business requirements drove enterprises to adopt an assortment of unrelated internal systems and applications. Most came with their own independent user directories. Enterprises ended up with hundreds of different systems that had to be administered independently and would soon diverge.

    With the advent of network PCs, we began to see Network Operating System domains that were collections of PC&#39s working in conjunction with servers.  Banyan‘s StreetTalk and Novell&#39s Netware were both gamechanging products that introduced LAN directory coupled with identity management and authentication capabilities, but over time Active Directory achieved predominance as the administrative and security domain for PC users and applications. These products greatly simplified management of personal computers but the plethora of specialized business systems remained.  In fact some enterprises ended up with multiple Active Directories.

    A category of Identity Management integration products arose as a response to these problems: a dizzying array of often brittle point products and tools that could only be deployed at high cost by skilled specialists. They generally had to be customized to the point of being one-off solutions that paradoxically made the legacy even harder for customers to unravel.

    In retrospect the most striking characteristic of the domain based model is that each domain spoke with absolute authority.  It named things and asserted their attributes.  The machines, services and administrators that were part of the domain took its assertions as being unquestionable.  Trust for the domain was a condition of membership.  There was no need for the evaluation of assertions since they came from the domain and the domain was right by definition.

    Another characteristic was that each domain created identifiers within a namespace it controlled and they  could be used to access the information about domain members and components by any entity the domain authorized.  Systems typically employed a single namespace, and services used the same identifiers that were associated with domain components and users at authentication time.

    In other words, until domains began to collide, it was a pretty simple world.  Conversely, in todays interconnected and permeable world, most of the assumptions underlying the domain apply with growing caveats.   

    Internet-facing Identity Model

    The explosion of the Internet surrounded the closed enterprise security domains with outward-facing systems aimed at customers and suppliers.

    Once Web usage went beyond public applications like PR and advertising, organizations discovered that to enhance relationships with individual customers – and ultimately do e-Business – they needed ways to register them over the web.   Customers and suppliers were seen as a different category of domain object, but the systems built for them still followed the domain model.  Anything the domain said about its customer or supplier was taken to be true by all the applications in it.

    Consumer and supply chain identity management was most often customized on top of existing business databases that were completely independent from the directories of employees maintained inside the corporate firewall. 

    This created problems in linking employees with customers. In the wake of mergers and acquisitions, companies struggled to deliver a unified experience to customers across multiple business units with diverse origins, and competition drove them to seek more unified identity and resource management services.

    The Identity Management market thus expanded to include products that performed single sign-on and unified access control across a set of colliding domains, accompanied by large expenditures on hand-crafted integration projects.

    Next:  Identity Management before the cloud – the Identity Ecosystem Model